Have you ever wondered about an easy way to estimate how much fabric you need for a project? Warning: this could get technical, proceed with caution.

The simplest way is to consider each small section or each large panel of the chair as 100cm x across the width of the fabric. For example, the arm, would be 1m, the other arm 1m, the seat 1m, the back 1m, 1m for the seat cushion and 1m for the outside of the back. Although simple, this results in a lot of wasted fabric. What would be recommended is to draw up a cover plan to aid in visualising where the panels go, thus enabling a much closer estimate, and less wastage.

Commonly upholstery fabric comes in a 138cm wide roll, but they can arrive in a 150cm or wider roll. It is best to check the specifications before purchasing so that you aren’t surprised. When considering the panel sizes of a chair, you will need to keep this in mind. Most chairs will have some standard sized panels, but nothing beats measuring it to visualise how big the panels are.

If you have a chair, look at it and consider the panels needed. There are a few different names for each panel, but generally we refer to them as inside and outside of that panel. For instance, the inside back and the outside back, then abbreviate the names

to IB and OB. This limits the amount written, especially when you have a large lounge to cut out that may have 50 odd pieces.

Taking Measurements
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When trying to work out the panel size required, measure from the attachment point to attachment point.

What is the attachment point you ask? It is the place where the fabric is stapled off or attaches to another panel (a sewn seam). If you are measuring a panel that requires sewing you would add 1.25cm for each edge with a sewn seam. If there is an edge that requires stapling, you will need to add around 3cm to allow something to hold onto.

When you have generated your list of sizes, ensure they are written LENGTH X WIDTH and laid out consistently in the same direction on the fabric. This way the pattern or pile on the fabric will always run the right way. The cover plan is a basic drawing of how you will achieve this based on your fabric width. A little like tetris.

Taking estimates
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The end result is literally the quantity of fabric you require. You can add up along the edge the different sizes to come to a conclusion.

See this example, the total fabric required would be 2.5m.

You may say “I will just use the old covers as templates”. Unfortunately, this isnt always possible. Sometimes you add or adjust padding in upholstery, so the sizes may change. More importantly, the previous covers have been trimmed off at the staples and the sewing allowance may not be what you require to achieve a tailored look. It is always best to remeasure.

So instead of heading down to Spotlight on a sale day and buying way too much fabric. Consider buying better quality upholstery fabric, but the right quantity.

Generally speaking, a little bit of left overs is not a bad thing. You may want co-coordinating scatter cushions to go with the item you are having upholstered/upholstering.

One other thing to keep in mind, some dining chairs, would fit next to each other when marking them out on the roll, sometimes, three panels across. On the other hand, some chair seat panels would be next to impossible to cut two across the width of the fabric.

If you would like to learn more about the complexities of marking and cutting fabric, Join our 4 hour taster class:

Have this concept demonstrated for you and get some practice before cutting the fabric for your next project will give you a bit more piece of mind and confidence. 

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